Instagram’s Creative Tools: Taking Stories to the Next Level

Instagram’s Creative Tools: Taking Stories to the Next Level

As social media strategists, a big part of our job is telling the stories of the brands that we work with. We have plenty of platforms that we can do that on, and when it comes to visual storytelling, Instagram is often the best place. The platform has grown a lot over the years from a chronological feed for photos to an algorithm-based marketing tool. When they released their Stories feature in August 2016, we immediately began integrating them into the social strategy of our clients. Looking for some tips on how to create a killer Instagram story? We got you. Let’s jump in.

Create Your Content


If you already have photos or videos to use in your Story, Instagram will let you upload them through the app by swiping up when on the camera screen. There are a few complications, though. Any pre-made content for stories in your phone’s camera roll must have been created or added in the last 24 hours. To get around this, you can screenshot them or edit them slightly. Instagram also won’t let you crop for stories in-app, so you’ll need to size photos and videos properly (1080 pixels wide x 1920 pixels tall or a 9:16 aspect ratio for video).

In addition to uploading pre-made content, or using Instagram’s basic camera shooting modes, we find two of Instagram’s video tools to be particularly useful:


A Boomerang (or Selfieboom, if you’re using your front-facing camera) is a burst of photos that are stitched together to create a mini video that plays backward and forward on repeat. Boomerangs are great for capturing motion, whether it’s somebody waving, dancing, or anything in between.


The Hyperlapse app, separate from Instagram, lets you create stabilized, handheld time lapses. After shooting your video, you can speed the video up from 1x-12x. It’s important to remember that for every second of time lapse, you need to shoot six seconds of regular video.

Edit Your Photos and Videos


As with any visual, you should have some kind of copy explaining what’s happening in your story. Because most users will be viewing your story on a small screen, copy should be concise — five to seven words max. If you have multiple thoughts to convey in one Story image or video, add multiple text blocks. Any text placed in an image is automatically white, which can tend to be visually boring or hard to read on top of some background colors. To help with readability, play around with the size of the text, change its color, or add a colored box (solid or translucent) to any text.


If you’re looking for something more unique than the default sans serif font, try writing on the image by hand. Instagram offers a few different tools including a sparkle pen, glow pen, calligraphy or felt pen, and a fine tip pen. Any marks made by pen can be erased using the eraser tool. When using the fine tip pen tool, writing speed changes the thickness of the line. Slow speed will make a thicker line, while faster speed will make a thinner line. Pro tip: Use a stylus to make your lines cleaner when writing — even a cheap one from Wal-Mart will do.


Location tags and hashtags are a must. It can be hard to reach an audience outside of your followers when posting Stories, but adding location tags and hashtags allow other Instagram users to see your content through aggregated location and hashtag stories. Adding a sticker doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make it into an aggregated story, but you’ll certainly have a chance. One of Instagram’s newest features is a two-option poll sticker that shows results immediately after a viewer makes their choice. When you swipe up on your photo or video, you’ll be able to see who voted for each option. Additionally, Instagram offers their own set of emoji-style stickers alongside stock iPhone or Android emojis.


Ever take a look back at your story after you posted it and realize that your text wasn’t straight or your username is covering up something at the top? We all have, but don’t worry. In a recent update, Instagram debuted a new blue-colored grid that allows you to align any sticker or text in your story to the right, center, top, and bottom of your screen. Just drag your stickers around the screen, and the grid will appear. If you happen to accidentally skew a text block, a yellow line will appear when you get it level horizontally.


If your account is verified, you can add links to your videos and photos. When a link is added to your story, viewers will see “See More” at the bottom of the screen. When users swipe up, your link is loaded in Instagram’s in-app browser. Adding links is a good way to drive traffic or convert users to your website or web content.

Check Your Story Analytics


If you’ve posted a Story to a business account, some basic analytics are available by clicking the bars next to the view count after swiping up. These metrics are helpful in determining what content types work the best with your audience and the best length for your story.

IMPRESSIONS: The number of times your photo or video was seen.

VIEWERS: The number of accounts that saw your photo or video.

REPLIES: The number of replies to your photo or video.

SWIPES: The number of swipes away from your story from that specific photo or video.

STICKERS: The number of times a sticker was tapped.

Are you trying to up your Instagram Story game and need a helping hand? Give us a shout — we’re always happy to help.


1 Comment

  1. Bryan Ming Wang

    Very helpful tips!


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